Travel Dates: June 4, 2016
Must See: Historic area, sunset over Rio de Plata
Must Do: Walk the cobblestone streets, experience what Uruguayans do
Must Try: Yerba Mate, Chivito, Chorizo al pan
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Colonia was an afterthought when I was planning Buenos Aires. But, it is another country and one that will serve me another stamp on my passport. Plus, it is only 1 hour and 15 minutes by ferry.
I purchased the ticket in the US 2 weeks before departing for Argentina. I was able to take advantage of a 20% discount for the fast boat round trip on Buquebus (https://www.buquebus.com/english). The website was kind of confusing even though it was in both English and Spanish but I was relieved that I had done the right thing and filled out the form correctly on line. It is notable that the price appears with a dollar sign but don’t be alarmed; do a currency exchange and you’ll see the price in USD.
I arrived at the Buquebus terminal in Puerto Madero 1 hour before the departure time. After checking in, you go through an X-ray then immigration. Both Argentina and Uruguay immigration officials were in the same area and you will first clear Argentina then that official will walk you over to the Uruguay official. Once that is done, you are good to go. The ferry was quite big and the seats were comfortable. There is a concession stand in the ferry where you can buy snacks and drinks.
Upon arrival in Colonia, grab a map from the tourism office just outside of the station and the rest of the day is yours. The cobblestone streets can make for a challenge so wear comfortable shoes. You can rent a golf cart if you wish but Colonia is also walkable if you are staying only around the historic area.
Exchanging your money (USD or Argentinian Pesos) isn’t necessary as Uruguay will take either. When you pay in Argentinian Pesos you will receive change in Uruguay Pesos (I didn’t bother to calculate the exchange rate though $1 USD equaled $31 Uruguayan Pesos).
The food to eat here is Chivito (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chivito_(sandwich)) and the drink is Yerba Mate (http://www.uruguayuruguay.com/the-yerba-mate.htm). I found a food truck and had a chivito and chorizo al pan. Yes, it came with fries and although it was a tad salty for my palate, it was eaten. I didn’t try the Yerba Mate (you will see people walking around with a thermos and a [metal] container with a straw) but upon returning to BA, the waitress at Anselmo Hilton offered to let me try the Yerba Mate with and without sugar (I liked it without sugar and it tasted like green tea but slightly bitter). Sidenote: I learned from this kind waitress that Yerba Mate is a shared drink amongst friends or acquaintances. The drink is prepared by 1 person and it is passed around. You cannot stir the drink as it might upset the other people in the group.
The beauty of Colonia was unlike any other. Although one might say it is just another place near the water I might disagree. I walked the streets left to right and right to left and around and around. People took long lunches while I inhaled my lunch in less than 30 minutes. I found myself back at the terminal asking to leave early but with the discounted ticket, I wasn’t allowed to make the change. Then, I remembered the beautiful sunset that someone wrote about in a blog. I’m glad I stayed because the sunset over Rio de Plata was gorgeous.
The same process with immigration and Customs was demonstrated upon returning to Buenos Aires. However, one note of caution is not taking a cab outside of the Buquebus terminal. The taxi drivers know that you would like to leave as soon as possible and will take advantage of your money. A cab ride to San Telmo from the station at 10p could cost you $150 – $200 Pesos while I paid only $70 Pesos that same morning. So, walk away from the terminal on a major street and hail a cab.
I would like to return to Uruguay and see Montevideo. I heard the beaches there are beautiful. Ciao!